Elul is a time of introspection, a time when things long forgotten are remembered. As the month progresses and we approach the new year, I remembered something that I saw on television many years ago. I even found it on YouTube:
A very special verse comes to mind: "He that is slow to anger is better than the mighty; and he that ruleth his spirit than he that taketh a city" (Proverbs 16:32).
It is interesting that King Solomon saw a similarity between spiritual and physical valor. Someone who is able to overcome his evil inclination is truly a hero. Our Rabbis saw this as being the utmost degree of heroism (Avot 4:1).
Who is not familiar with the "thrill of victory"? Almost everyone has seen the celebrations after a baseball team wins the World Series or a soccer team wins the World Cup. The thrill of victory in the spiritual realm is a bit different. A person doesn't open bottles of champagne every time he beats the Yetzer HaRa. It is a totally different feeling, a delicate inner happiness where one feels that he has improved himself, improved the world and has come closer to God. This is the ultimate victory.
And then there is the "agony of defeat". Here I think we get a little bit closer to the world of sport. You feel like a boxer that has just been knocked down on his back. You look up and you see the Yetzer HaRa standing over you, smiling. You wonder how you got into this fight. Didn't you know who was going to win? How did the Yetzer HaRa fool you, little by little, to enter into the ring. You are ashamed of yourself for falling for the same tricks, for letting emotion and desire rule over reason.
As the year heads towards its conclusion we examine our victories and defeats. We look to strengthen the good deeds, and to distance ourselves from the not so good ones. We regret our errors, confess them before God, and take upon ourselves not to be fooled again by the Yetzer.
May we merit to feel the thrill of victory, and may we be spared the agony of defeat!